Marc Bennett: Travel executive’s widow details husband’s ‘torture’ in Qatar before his death

Nancy Bennett on Channel 4 News  (Channel 4 News)
Nancy Bennett on Channel 4 News (Channel 4 News)

The widow of a travel executive who died in mysterious circumstances in Qatar says she does not believe her husband took his own life.

In her first TV interview, the wife of Marc Bennett told Channel 4 News she disputed claims made by police in Qatar that he died by suicide, and described “torture” her husband allegedly faced at the hands of authorities prior to his suspicious death.

The Government of Qatar has vehemently denied the allegations of mistreatment, saying “all detainees are treated with respect and dignity”.

Mr Bennett had been headhunted to set up Discover Qatar ahead of the Gulf state hosting this year’s World Cup. But after he told bosses he was leaving to work for a rival Saudi-owned company, he was arrested and detained, accused of stealing confidential documents from his employers.

He was released from custody after three weeks but was not allowed to leave the country.

On Christmas Day 2019 - 10 weeks after he was released - he was found hanged in an apartment in the capital, Doha. A Qatar police report said the cause of death was suicide but a UK Coroner refused to record a conclusion of suicide, saying there was no evidence Mr Bennett had intended to take his own life.

His widow Nancy has now told Channel 4 News presenter and Investigations Editor Cathy Newman: “Marc would not take his own life. Everybody has said that boy would not take his own life.”

She told how her husband had been supposed to attend a part on Christmas Eve, and had been to get a haircut.

“I would always text Marc to say that I was up so I did that Christmas Eve in the morning, and then I didn’t get a response,” she recalled.

“So I phoned the Foreign Office on Christmas Eve in the afternoon, just to say that I was worried. We did have Christmas Day but it wasn’t until Christmas night that we found out.

“The room didn’t make sense. He had his clothes that he was going to wear to the party - they were laid out. He had obviously been washing, his gym kit was on the airer.

“And it was just the bed - the bed was, cover turned back, actually a pillow folded as to how he would always have a pillow, with a book face down ready to be picked up and read again.

“There was no note, nothing was left. There was a coffee cup, there was food. It was honestly as if there had been a knock at the door, you put your book down, you go and open the door, and then you would go back to reading your book. I don’t know, I don’t know what happened.

“Because he was always looking to the future. Always. He had big plans; he really did have big plans. He always had something to look forward to in the future.”

Detailing the ordeal Marc experienced during his three-week detention prior to his death, Ms Bennett said: “He was handcuffed and blindfolded, and then put in a car and taken to a detention centre.

“He was subjected to mental and physical torture. It was very much based on who had approached Marc from the Saudi company - when they had met, where did they meet, how many times have they met, what are you taking to them - and just the same questions.

“Not being allowed sleep, being in a freezing cold room, air conditioning, just, that mental torture that he spoke to me about. And it was all based around the Saudis, that questioning, which he had nothing, there was nothing to give them.

“There was a point where Marc was in the interrogation room and they were telling him that he would never see his family again.”

Asked about any physical torture her husband may have endured, Ms Bennett said: “I’ll be honest with you, I block that out. I have been told but I don’t want to sit here talking about it because actually, I don’t know if I’ll get it 100% right because I don’t like that in my head.”

She said her husband had been allowed to call her, but that his voice had been unrecognisable.

“I had to ask who it was because I did not recognise his voice,” she said. “He was so hoarse. It was just not Marc speaking.”

The Government of Qatar told Channel 4 News: “The State of Qatar categorically denies allegations of mistreatment in its detention facilities, and it specifically denies the allegations made by Channel 4. All detainees are treated with respect and dignity in accordance with international standards.

“Qatar regularly opens its detention facilities for inspection from independent human rights observers and international organisations. In 2019, Qatar invited a UN Working Group to inspect its facilities, while in the same year, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) conducted 96 independent field visits to facilities across the country.”

Qatar Airways told Channel 4 News that Mr Bennett was a “valued and popular colleague”. They say they reported him to the authorities after discovering he had forwarded confidential emails to a private email address without authorisation. They insist they had no role in his treatment after his arrest and that they ended correspondence with Ms Bennett after differences over whether financial compensation was due.

Ms Bennett’s interview was featured on Channel 4 News at 7pm on Thursday.